BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID WHEN PREGNANT 

OVERVIEW OF FOLIC ACID

Folic acid is very important during pregnancy. It plays very important and key roles in organ formations and fetal development. Women who are preparing for pregnancy should increase their folic acid intake. Since folic acid is an essential vitamin, it cannot be produced by the human body but is obtained through external means, such as diet or drugs.

Folic acid is very important during preparation for pregnancy and pregnancy, because it prevents birth defects in children. About 75% of neural tube defects are due to low folic acid levels in the pregnant woman. Low levels of folic acid before and during the first trimester of pregnancy is the most common cause of neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. In the United States, about 4000 cases of neural tube defects in pregnancies occur annually. Folic acid is sometimes known as the champion vitamin for pregnancy, due to its function in ensuring the normal development of a baby with no defects.

WHAT IS FOLIC ACID?

Folic acid is a B-Complex vitamin. It is a type of water-soluble vitamin which is indispensable and highly necessary for biosynthesis and organ development during pregnancy. Folic acid is also known as Vitamin B9. To be specific folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 and folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 found in orange juices and leafy vegetables. In conclusion folic acid is the synthetic form of folate.

SOURCES OF FOLIC ACID

There are two main forms of vitamin B9 which are all required for women who are preparing for pregnancy (a month before ) or are pregnant. Some sources of folic acid or folate are:

  • NATURAL FOLIC ACID:

This kind of vitamin B9 is called folate instead of folic acid. These are mostly foods with a rich supply of folate and other vitamins. Natural folic acid is not rapidly or readily metabolized like the synthetic ones. Examples of foods rich in folate are; Orange juice, cereals, pasta, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peanuts, sunflower seeds, beef liver, and eggs.

  • FOLIC ACID ENRICHED PRODUCTS:

These are foods which are fortified with synthetic folic acid. This folic acid can be easily metabolized and absorbed by the body. Pregnant women are expected to consume folic acid rich diets. This boost the provision of folic acid about 0.1mg per day. Food rich in folic acid include bread, cereals and pasta.

  • DIRECT ORAL FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENT:

These are pills given to pregnant women which contain folic acid readily released and absorbed by the body.

  • MULTIVITAMIN TABLETS:

These tablets contain other vitamins and are rich in folic acid. A tablet may contain about 0.4mg of folic acid.

HOW MUCH FOLIC ACID DOES A PREGNANT WOMAN NEED?

Folic acid is needed by every woman preparing for a pregnancy or during pregnancy. This, however, does not mean intake of folic acid should not be regulated. In general, the amount of folic acid taken in a day should not exceed 1mg/day. A woman preparing for pregnancy should take about 0.4mg/day. From the first month of pregnancy, synthetic folic acid intake should be about 0.4mg/day-0.8mg/day, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. Folic acid intake can continue throughout pregnancy and even to breastfeeding.

Some conditions in specific pregnant women require extra doses of folic acid. These conditions are include:

  • Women with a past history of a baby with neural tube defects.
  • Pregnancy with twins.
  • Diabetic women on diabetic drugs.
  • Women taking anti-seizure drugs.
  • Genetic mutations on genes that code for the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme. This enzyme prevents metabolism and processing of ingested folate or folic acid.
  • Alcoholic women.
  • Women with sickle cell disease.

BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID WHEN PREGNANT

Folic acid is needed by a woman preparing to get pregnant because its circulating levels should normal and adequate for the incoming fetus. After conception, folic acid is necessary for proper development of the baby and proper organogenesis (organ development). Below are some of the benefits of folic acid during pregnancy.

1. Prevention of neural tube defects:

Folic acid is key in the process of neurulation (forming of neural tube, a precursor to the human nervous system ). It is essential in the very early weeks of pregnancy from week three to four onwards, required for the formation of DNA and cell proliferation. In the absence of folic acid, there is a low proliferation of cells and poor cell growth and differentiation. Consequently, the neural fold cells are unable to fuse well, resulting in a neural tube that does not close completely. Two main effects are seen due to neural tube defects;

• Anencephaly: In this case, the neural tube does not close at the top or cranial side. This causes the absence of major parts of the brain. Children born with this do not normally survive or even die before birth.

• Spinal Bifida: In this case, the neural tube fails to close at the caudal end or tail end. The result of this is the absence of parts of and malformation of the spinal cord. A severe form, in which spinal nerves and membranes push through an opening of the spinal canal into the vertebrae in a sac behind the baby, popularly known as (myelomeningocele), demands immediate surgical repair. Children normally have paralysis in various parts of the body as a result.

2. Prevention of other congenital birth defects:

Cleft palate, Cleft lip, heart defects are prevented when folic acid is taking during pregnancy as it ensures proper growth and complete organogenesis.

3. Ensures proper placenta formation and fetal growth:

This prevents children with low birth weight(microsomia), poor intra-uterine growth, miscarriage, and other pregnancy-related complications.

4. Reduces the risk complications of birth and gestation:

Preeclampsia, eclampsia, and premature birth.

5. Generally reduction of illness:

Stroke, heart diseases, cancers, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

SIDE EFFECTS OF FOLIC ACID

Though folic acid is very essential for pregnancy, it is very important not to abuse it. Too much folic acid intake, more than 1mg/day during pregnancy and after delivery causes side effects. Some of these effects include:

  • Short term effects:

Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, confusion, abdominal pains, sleep cycle dysfunction, and miscarriage in women with an inability to absorb and metabolize folic acid.

  • Long term effects:

Leukemia, other forms of cancers, asthma, and heart problems. It is advisable to stop taking or reduce folic acid supplement intake after delivery. Fortified folic acid foods and natural folic acid containing foods can help to maintain the necessary folic acid levels, unless your doctor says otherwise.

MANIFESTATIONS OF FOLIC ACID DEFICIENCY IN PREGNANCY

  • Anemia.
  • Easy fatiguability.
  • Weight loss.
  • Headaches.
  • Sore tongue.
  • Palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath.

SUMMARY

Folic acid or folate is needed by any woman, preparing for pregnancy or who is already pregnant. It is needed for the development of the baby and ensures safe gestation. Dietary folate and synthetic folic acid are given to women one month before pregnancy and continued. during pregnancy.

Folic acid deficiency in pregnancy is responsible for about 75% of all neural tube defect cases in the world. About 4,000 children are born in the USA neural tube defects, due to low folic acid intake by their mothers.